When I first played last year's NFL 2K, I was, to put it lightly, amazed. The play-by-play was great, and the action was both fast and cerebral. The game breathed new life into the stale video-football genre, setting a standard that has yet to be equaled. Now comes its sequel, NFL 2K1, and it is everything anyone could ask for, and then some.
As Ben mentioned, the graphics are second to none, and the interface is very accessible to both casual and devout gamers alike. Though the graphics aren't dramatically improved, they are sharper and feature a plethora of new motion-capture animations, and the detail on the players is remarkable. Audio is similarly awe-inspiring, with the commentators dispensing a seemingly endless array of jokes, stats, and play-by-play commentary. The game features a variety of realistic ambient sounds as well, such as player voices and a PA announcer.
I'm sure it's clear by now that NFL 2K1 looks and sounds spectacular. However, graphics and sound do not a good game make, as any player knows. Fortunately, NFL 2K1 delivers an amazing game experience as well. All the playbooks are updated, and you can add your own with the create-a-play feature. However, what really sold me to this game, and what has really been the most improved over last year's edition, is the fantastic running game. I have played many a football game, but never have I seen nor experienced such a smooth and accessible ground game. The physics are graceful and wonderfully lifelike. If you're a 250-pound halfback running at top speed, you won't be easily tackled by a slow-moving 180-pound safety. Similarly, a 350-pound linebacker cannot be evaded with a measly stiff arm. You can drag tacklers for a few extra yards and juke or spin away from defenders, and moves and tackles are all pulled off smoothly with flawless motion-capture.
The passing game is more of the same, but as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Defense isn't without its improvements either, with some new moves for powering through or dodging the offensive line. The gameplay has some glitches, however. Occasionally I have seen players "stuck" in one spot, or the QB will throw the ball in a completely different direction than I had intended, away from the intended receiver. Also, I found clipping penalties to be frequent and annoying, despite the fact that I had no control over the players committing the foul. However, these glitches are few and far between, and do little to scar the otherwise fantastic gameplay.
Certainly at the top of Sega's list of priorities is the success of their online venture, SegaNet, the launch of which coincides with the release of NFL 2K1. My experience online was not quite as smooth as Ben's, though it still delivered. When it works (which is most of the time), it's a ton of fun, especially if you have a keyboard (a must for Dreamcast owners, in my opinion). There is a small amount of lag, so players may have to input their moves a split second before they actually want to pull them off. Unfortunately, I found this to be a big problem in my otherwise successful running game. Lag time may render running up the middle almost useless, so players may be relegated to passing and running to the outside. Also, players don't always move in the direction you'd expect them to, which in more than one instance resulted in a frustrating loss of yards. Fortunately, Sega provides a service that tells players whether another gamer has a good or bad connection. If you stick to your region, the connection will be smooth, quick, and relatively glitch-free. All in all, SegaNet looks very promising, though in the future Sega may need to offer alternatives to the built-in 56k modem.
It all boils down to this: NFL 2K1 is the best looking, smoothest playing football game ever to grace any platform. Its numerous features, particularly network play and the ability to download updated rosters, will add a great deal of replay value. It's a must-have for any sports fan, and one of the best reasons yet to own a Dreamcast.